MAXINE GORDON escapes the crowds for a luxury break in the Lakes

SUNSHINE and seclusion are not words you normally associate with a trip to the Lake District.

Well certainly not in my experience. But then I'd never been to Bassenthwaite on the north western edge of the Lakes – nor had I ever made the journey in a heatwave.

Our location was Armathwaite Hall, overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake – a good two and a half hour's drive from York. But worth it (even in the sweltering heat).

Grand doesn't do this place justice. If you like thick stone walls, wood panelled rooms and a staircase on which to make an entrance, this is the place for you.

As for history, well you could write a book about the place. There has been a house on this site since the 11th century, with more reliable records about the hall dating back to 1540. It came close to demolition in 1930, but was saved in the nick of time by a Mr J B Wivvel, the then owner of the nearby Keswick Hotel for the sum of £5,000. After six months of renovations it was opened as a hotel with a double bedroom with bath and toilet charged at 25s.

Today it is owned by the Graves family and really does offer the best of both worlds – a hotel steeped in history, but with all mod cons.

There's an outdoor hot-tub, a cocktail bar and we even had a TV in our bathroom (a first for me!).

Our room – one of three luxury suites at the hotel – had an outdoor terrace with views across the lake towards Skiddaw mountain. We had breakfast delivered to our room so we could enjoy it al fresco and take in the view.

York Press:

LUXURY: Outdoor hot tub at Armathwaite Hotel

The hotel still retains its old world charms – you can play croquet on the lawn and there is an outdoor tennis court too. But like most of the guests, we headed for the spa: for a few laps of the indoor pool, and a spot of relaxation in the steam room and indoor and outdoor hot-tubs. Heaven! We each had a full body massage too. Mine was one of the best I'd ever had, the masseuse applying just the right pressure to iron out the knots in my back and shoulders – and using a lovely local blend of body oil featuring aromatic thyme.

We dined in the hotel restaurant, sharing a rack of lamb from local breed Herdwick. It was beautifully cooked to the right point of tenderness and served with champ, tomato, green beans and a giant sauteed mushroom. We sampled some local cheese afterwards before retiring with a nightcap.

One big bonus of staying at Armathwaite Hall is its closeness to the lake. There are lovely grounds to explore – as well as a path that leads to the lakeside. We spent a couple of hours walking through woodland that followed the lake shore, weaving down tracks every now and then to discover pebble beaches. Some were deserted, others were in use by dog walkers or the odd family with a picnic or barbecue. We reached a private sailing club and thought how lovely this must be for them to have Bassenthwaite all to themselves without the bother of commercial boats.

Nesting ospreys have returned to Bassenthwaite and an osprey watch takes place each year with live webcams to monitor their progress.

We enjoyed the peace and quiet immensely in stark contrast to previous days out at Windermere. It does feel off the beaten track, so if you do go exploring, take some drinks and snacks – you can even order a picnic from Armathwaite Hall.

Lunchtime had come and gone and we had worked up an appetite. We drove the nine miles or so to Keswick – and returned to Lake District reality with a bang. The place was buzzing, with cafes and pubs full of visitors. We were lucky to bag an outside table at a small cafe called Little Chamonix on Lake Street and ordered a bite to eat: homemade quiche and salad for my hubby and a falafel and hummus wrap and salad for me. But our real interest lay next door at a gelato parlour. People were queueing out the door, and we soon joined them. We weren't disappointed.

Before heading back for York we drove to nearby Derwent Water, stopping at a National Trust car park to take in the lake view. It was busier here with families and teens enjoying the water. Inflatable canoes and paddle boards seemed to be the rage – leaving the pair of us feeling envious that all we could manage was a quick dip of our tootsies into the lovely, cool water.

Fact file

Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa

Bassenthwaite Lake


Cumbria, CA12 4RE

T: 017687 76551